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Vicki S' bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 36, QLD)

I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 1999 at 36 years of age. Twelve months prior to my diagnosis I had visited my GP and raised concerns about weight loss, rectal bleeding, changes in my bowel habit, stomach pain and feeling tired. My GP told me it was stress-related.

After numerous visits I felt like I a hypochondriac so I stopped going to the doctor to report the same symptoms and accepted it was stress (even though I didn’t feel it was stress related). I was a single mother with two young children so I told myself it was not unusual to feel tired.

Unfortunately by the time I was diagnosed I had a Stage three tumour that had left the primary site and spread to my surrounding lymph nodes. I was supposed to have six months of chemotherapy but I got so sick and lost so much weight (I dropped down to 40 kgs) I had to have a break, so my chemotherapy ended up being spread over nine months.

Psychologically I ended up having a mental breakdown. I used to work all week, have chemo on Friday afternoons, go to bed for the weekend then go back to work on Monday. I felt under enormous pressure to support my two children and believed that I had let them down. I felt as though I was a burden on them by being so sick. I thought if I died, they would have at least receive some financial help. I was lucky to have a lot of emotional support from my family at this time… they were wonderful.

I’m happy to say I’m now a survivor and my life is great. I have a two amazing children and I am now remarried. My message to anyone going through this disease is - this is about you and its ok to feel scared or depressed at times. Don’t feel pressured to be constantly positive, and let people help you.